Weekends during Blast Furnace members early through mid 20’s always consisted of venturing out to all of the hotspots around Pittsburgh. Whether it was the Southside, Oakland, Shadyside, Strip District, or near our home-base in the South Hills we always found the right place to have fun. One Friday evening we headed to Station Square. At this point in time we had been to Margarita Momma’s a few times, but were getting tired of paying the cover charge and being around the meathead crowd that frequented the establishment. As we wondered around the complex, a gentleman was sitting near Margarita Momma’s handing out passes for free entry into the Matrix. We were all aware of the Matrix, it had been open for several years and was previously known as Rock Jungle, but we had never entered the place so we decided to give it a try.
Of course being such a high-class and popular hotspot there was a line that stretched down the steps and onto the sidewalk before being admitted. We were directed into the Salsa room (Velvet), one of the four themed bars of the Matrix. As we made our way to the bar we noticed that the Friday Matrix special was $0.50 mixed drinks from 10pm-12am. We made sure to oblige and indulge, ordering two or three 8 oz plastic cups at a time. Two projection TVs were placed above the bar playing old black and white Latin nudie films (not porn or anything just some classy ladies having some fun dancing) and there was a very attractive girl salsa dancing on top of the bar. Patrons were mesmerized by this stunning display. After consuming as many watered down drinks as humanly possible before the 12am deadline we checked out what the other bars had to offer.
The techno bar (Liquid) was connected to the Salsa room so that made the most sense as the next bar to visit. Black lights adorned the bar and dance floor and the pounding of the bass in the techno music made the room vibrate. Weirdos were dancing aimlessly to the beats while waving glow sticks in the air. This was the least popular bar at Matrix, but it had its advantages, no drink line and an oxygen bar. Of course we headed straight for the oxygen bar. Besides breathing it in on a secondary basis no one in the group had ever done oxygen recreationally before. So we sat down and were hooked up to a nasal tube and paid $6.00 for five minutes of pure oxygen refreshment. To abbreviate the experience, it was a pretty invigorating. After being annoyed by the pulsating music we headed to the 80’s room.
The 80’s room quickly became our favorite; the music brought us back to our elementary school days, when life was simple. Two bars were placed on opposite sides of the room to accommodate the crowd. This gave the Blast Furnace their first chance to get on the dance floor. 1980 staples such as Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl,” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” whipped everyone into a frenzy. All of a sudden we look up and notice a crowd surrounding a middle-aged man who is twirling himself in a circle to Dead or Alive’s hit single “You Spin Me Round.” This gentleman was really getting into the groove and was literally dancing by himself. This performance really energized the patrons and he continued dancing well into the wee hours of the morning eventually working himself into a sweaty mess. We came to learn that this man worked as a vendor at Heinz Field and PNC Park and danced every weekend at the Station Square club. He is now known to us as ‘Matrix Man’ or the ‘Vendor’ depending on the situation. Seeing him climbing the stairs at Heinz Field Pills or I would call out to him, “hey Matrix Man, are you going to be dancing at the Matrix tonight?” He would respond with a resounding “yes” and continue on proudly with the beverage tray in hand. After having enough entertainment in the 80’s room we entered the Hip Hop/Top 40 room (Goddess).
Goddess was the place that you went to get your grind on. The top songs at the time were Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back,” Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’,” and Sean Paul’s “Temperature” (wow, looking back these songs really sucked and didn’t have much staying power) were blaring out of the speakers. This room was very crowded, had the best looking girls, and was the weekend broadcasting spot for Kiss 96.1 FM. The hip hop bar was a breeding ground for meatheads and ‘g’s’. Although two bars were located here, they were too crowded to even bother waiting in line. The group quickly decided to make a return stop to the 80’s and Salsa room before heading home. As 2:00am arrived we were hustled out of the club by “security” and we were definitely satisfied with our decision to spend the evening at the Matrix.
The Matrix offered something for everyone; it was a place where recent college grads, average people, forty-something divorcees, alcoholics, and the aforementioned meatheads and ‘g’s’ could go to have fun. As weekends approached our steady group of eight made a conscious effort to go to the Matrix. This was a place where we spent many New Year’s Eves and Halloweens and brought guests from foreign countries to visit. There was always a chance you could see a fight, a celebrity appearance like “Saved by the Bell’s” Screech, or a guy passed out drunk sitting on a toilet seat naked in an open bathroom stall.
Sadly, in January 2010 the Matrix was shut down due to ownership's failure to pay taxes. Chalk that up as another Blast Furnace haunt that is no longer alongside Cumpies (now Garage Door Saloon in Oakland), Johnny’s Place (Oakland), the Firehouse (Strip District), and the Rhythm House (Bridgeville). A new club named Carson Street Live opened in the spring of 2011, but it has nothing on the Matrix. The day the doors were shut our twenty’s had died. Unfortunately Blast Furnace members were a bit too young to experience legendary Pittsburgh clubs Donzi’s and Chauncey’s and were briefly able to loaf at Tequila Willies in the Strip District before it floated down the river on a barge, but the Matrix was where us early 80's babies got our feet wet. The Matrix may not have the lasting recognition as some of the previously named bars, but it will always have a special place in our hearts.